Cairns QueenslandCape York PeninsulaEFFINCUEfar north Queenslandtransport & roads

BUSH PILOTS AIRWAYS — AN FNQ AVIATION & TOURISM PIONEER

BUSHIES DC-3 BEING TAKEN DOWN FROM THE PYLON AT CAIRNS AIRPORT

One of the casualties of the Cairns Airport re-development is the venerable aircraft that stood on a pylon outside the domestic terminal since the 1980s. That plane, a Douglas DC-3, had flown for Qantas in Papua New Guinea, and had carried King George VI around the Mediterranean during World War Two. More recently, as VH-BPA, it flew for far north Queensland’s very own airline, Bush Pilots Airways.

 

Bob Norman

The late Sir Bob Norman and a small group of investors established Bush Pilots Airways in Cairns in 1951, when most people heading for north Queensland went by rail or ship. Cairns and surrounds were a log way from anywhere, and the large-scale tourism that sustains the region today was unimaginable back then.

Bushies, as the airline came to be known, opened up vital air links between Cairns and the small communities of FNQ, keeping them supplied when the wet season closed the roads. And it was regularly called on to support the air ambulance service with emergency medical retrieval flights. These services kept remote communities and cattle stations viable, allowing development and progress in some very isolated places.

BUSHIES DC-3 VH-PWN CAIRNS 1973. THIS PLANE INSPIRED THE JOHN WILLIAMSON SONG PAPA WHISKEY NOVEMBER
BUSHIES DC-3 VH-PWN CAIRNS 1973 – INSPIRED THE JOHN WILLIAMSON SONG PAPA WHISKEY NOVEMBER

All these years later, people still tell stories of the airline and its many achievements. Bushies pioneered regional air services and tourism in FNQ, it served the State’s most remote places, and it saved lives. Eventually, BPA became Air Queensland, and was taken over by TAA. It ceased operations in 1988.

Former Bushies staff remember feeling they were part of a big family, and they continue to stay in touch. They’ve planned a reunion for April 28

Many former Bushies helped me make a radio series telling the story of the airline they loved, and how it began as an idea Bob Norman had while on military service in Canada during WW2.

 

 

EPISODE 1

 

EPISODE 2

 

EPISODE 3

 

EPISODE 4

 

EPISODE 5

 

A BUSH PILOTS AIRWAYS DC-3 ONCE ON DISPLAY AT CAIRNS AIRPORT
Follow and share

12 thoughts on “BUSH PILOTS AIRWAYS — AN FNQ AVIATION & TOURISM PIONEER

    1. Hi Terry

      When they took it down, it was initially to inspect it and see whether it go back on display elsewhere at Cairns airport. But the fuselage was in such poor shape that a return to display was impossible. Last I heard the NQ Warbirds at Mareeba airstrip had the cockpit and nose cone and are planning to put it on display there. I don’t know what became of the rest of the aircraft but the Warbirds crew might know. Cheers
      Rd

  1. G’day. Robyn here. My father was Douglas Neville Mitchell who started Mitchell Aerial Services in (I think) 1956, when Nev and his brother Frank swapped a Wackett, cash and a Tiger Moth to buy the Auster (DNM) from the Aero Club.
    A friend has suggested I organise a reunion or something for MAS, but I think most interested parties might be either dead, or half-dead. 🙂
    Any takers??
    Cheers,
    Robyn

    1. Robyn

      I currently own VH-DNM where she is hangared at Cabooloture. I would love to get copies of any photos you have of her, I say her but there is a note on the file I have that an Auster owned by the Aero Club was named “Tommy McDonald” and that maybe VH-DNM.
      Regards
      Ken

  2. Hi Richard, I believe that there is a “Bushies” reunion planned in Cairns in April 2012. Do you know when or where? My Mum & Dad were the agents for Bushies at Lockhart River from 1976 to 1979 and would love to attend this reunion if possible. Also any contacts if possible. I have done a websearch for the reunion and can’t find any info. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks in advance. Billy Harris.

    1. G’day to Billy Harris. Are you by any chance related to Clive Harris who work for Mitchell Aerial Services in the 50’s? I’m Nev. Mitchell’s daughter, Robyn.

    2. Hey Billy

      Seen this from Robyn Mitchell? G’day to Billy Harris. Are you by any chance related to Clive Harris who work for Mitchell Aerial Services in the 50′s? I’m Nev. Mitchell’s daughter, Robyn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *